Conceptualisations of Austrian German among Austrian teachers and students
2022-04-14, 12:00–12:30 (Europe/Vienna), Room 1

Teachers are considered to be norm authorities by society: As language professionals, they (are expected to) teach and correct language use. As a consequence, they have considerable impact on influencing the next generation´s language attitudes and their conceptualizations of a language.
The FWF-funded project “Austrian German as a language of instruction and education” investigated – among other aspects – language attitudes and the conceptualisations as regards German among teachers of German and school students in Austria for the first time in a large-scale project. The subject of standard language variation such as pluricentric variation is rarely addressed in an adequate or sufficient manner in school curricula and school books for German lessons from primary schools to upper secondary schools, as shown in an analysis of these documents. Therefore, student sensibilisation for standard variation consequently depends predominantly on teachers. As a consequence, the concepts teachers hold are anything but trivial in the process of passing on views concerning the nature and status of a language or variety of a language, especially in the highly normatively oriented realm that schools are.
In order to grasp these concepts and attitudes, a survey among more than 160 teachers and 1300 upper secondary school students was carried out throughout Austria, examining language conceptualizations and attitudes of both students and German teachers, and the role of Austrian Standard German in everyday school teaching routines. Furthermore, 21 interviews with German teachers, group discussions with teachers and students, and participatory observations in class were conducted to complete the picture.
Results of the study point to an overall implicit pluricentric conceptualisation of German among teachers and students, despite the fact that they also acknowledge language-internal variation within Austria. As a matter of fact, standard variation among German-speaking countries and standard variation within an individual German-speaking country such as Austria, seem not to contradict each other in terms of the assumption of (national) standard varieties among our probands. Our data suggest furthermore that Austrian Standard German has become a reasonably well-established notion among Austrian teachers of German, but there are also slight indications that the school students´ and the very young teachers’ generation´s conceptions of Austrian Standard German are not as pronounced and clear-cut as the conceptions held by middle-aged or older teachers.
This paper is going to present data from this large-scale survey on teachers´ and school students´ conceptualizations of the German language and intends to link these results with current developments in teacher training at universities and provide insight into the way school books have recently started to portray standard variation.

Panel affiliation

Standard language in Austria: Towards a new agenda (with language users taking the lead)